When I first learned that Apink’s Son Na-eun was going to star in “The Wrath,” a remake of the 1986 horror classic of the same name, I thought that K-pop star’s acting would ruin the film. I was clearly wrong. It wasn’t just Son that brought the whole film down.
It was everything, from the corny dialogue and nauseating camerawork to the director’s decision to directly bring an 80s-style horror film into the 2010s without proper adaptation.
Director Yoo Young-sun’s film takes place in the household of Lee Gyeong-jin -- a high-ranking official of Joseon Kingdom played by Choi Hong-il -- as his three sons perish at hands of an unidentified horror. Son’s character Ok-bun, impregnated with a child of the third son, soon learns of the dark secrets surrounding Lee’s wife Lady Shin -- played by Seo Young-hee -- and the evil spirit that haunts the house.
“The Wrath” (Smile Ent.)
Son’s acting is as bad as expected, from rigid expression on her face to her awkward delivery that seems particularly out of place in a period piece. Then again, it seems unfair to pick on her when there is bad acting all around.
The only redeemable character is Seo’s Lady Shin, who provides the only good acting in the entire film -- Choi’s Lee Gyeong-jin isn’t bad, but he is a minor character. But this is not nearly enough to salvage the film.
To its credit, the first act is scarier than most Korean horror films. But the effect of the endless parade of jump scares and eerie sounds soon wears out and they become almost mundane.
A horror film that just isn’t scary; this presents a myriad of issues, particularly in the third act. As a jumbled mess of jump scares, it does have the element of surprise in its favor, but sudden shocks just stop being scary after they materialize.
As a result, the climax is laughable. There is a scene toward the end that takes on a perspective of an infrared vision, for which the director seemed to have taken a page out of “Silence of the Lambs.”
But it is done so crudely that it is neither gripping nor interesting. It doesn’t even make sense: In the silence of the lambs, it showed the perspective of the psycho killer wearing an infrared camera. But it’s not even clear who is supposed to be wearing the camera here.
The biggest problem is that it feels so ... old. Looking at the original “Wrath” now, it is a joke. The lines are old-fashioned, the story is one-dimensional and the effects are embarrassing. At the time, however, these were top-notch effects that were able to captivate the audience.
Thirty-two years have passed, and we are no longer impressed by creepy make-up, cheap jump scares, and overfamiliar stories. The characters and the settings based on the relationships between in-laws and the suppressed desires of a housewife, are themes that seem a little outdated in the 2010s.
Overall, it has most of the flaws of a bad period piece and a bad horror film. The suspense-building in the first act is not bad, but it soon falls flat.
“The Wrath” opens in local theaters next Thursday.
By Yoon Min-sik